A guest blog from Rebecca Boardman, Facilitator – Refugee Response, for our associate partners USPG …
Have you ever stopped to think about the way the media shapes our perception of world events?
Not so much skewing the facts – although you might have a view on this. I’m thinking more about how wall-to-wall coverage (or lack of it) can drive our perceptions importance and urgency.
It certainly seems to be the case with the refugee situation here in Greece. For a time it was the focal point of everyone’s attention – journalists, politicians, the general public. We were outraged and upset. We demanded action.
But then the eyes of the world’s media moved on – to the blue skies and green swimming pools of Rio, the suits and hairstyles of the US Presidential election, or the potential implications of a Brexit vote. We followed their gaze. The plight of those stranded in temporary camps is largely forgotten.
Forgotten, and not fixed. Since January 2015 more than a million refugees and migrants have made the difficult journey to Europe. Almost 60,000 of them currently call a tent city in Greece ‘home’. For all the talk, a solution appears far off; the asylum application process is ponderous, European governments seem keen to renege on their promises, and the legality of the EU-Turkey deal is the subject of intense debate.
The result is a growing sense of frustration and anxiety across Greece. The country is struggling under the weight of the situation, and short of paying smugglers to continue their risky journey into Europe, the refugees themselves are powerless to change their circumstances.
60,000 people who’ve lost everything and think the world doesn’t care. It’s a dangerous mix – there are reports of vandalism and clashes with authorities, to say nothing of an appalling psychological impact which manifests itself in panic attacks, depression and suicide attempts – and at USPG, it’s something we’re working to assuage.
Through the Anglican Chaplaincy in Greece, we’re partnering with a network of local agencies including the Salvation Army and Greek Orthodox Church to demonstrate the love of Christ in practical ways. From hot meals to hygiene kits, clothes to children’s activities and medical assistance to maternal care, our desire is to extend a welcome to the stranger in our midst. To reassure them that, though the media spotlight might have moved on, they are not forgotten.
I’ve seen the difference a listening ear and a caring hand can make. I’ve accompanied the doctors and social workers as they care for families and young children, and I’ve sat in on Greek lessons and information sessions. With the cameras pointing in other directions you might not hear this otherwise, so let me say – it’s vital work, and it must continue.
Why not visit the USPG marquee in G-Source Village to find out more about our work? You’ll gain a better understanding of the journey the refugees have taken, and discover what you can do in response. There’s also an opportunity to speak to our team about Journey With Us – an exciting opportunity to experience first-hand the life of the world church.